Notorious leap year fables from around the world explained

2016-02-22 20:00
Post a comment 0

Cape Town - Have you ever pondered about the world's fascination with leap year babies, leap year good or bad luck and even whether one should travel during a leap year. 

Contiki has taken it upon themselves to set some of the world's mysteries straight and according to them, there is some factors travellers should be aware of this leap year. 

READ: It's official: South Africa is the cheapest country in the world to live

Monday, 29 February 2016

Is this the day that all those non-committal boyfriends spend in hiding, not wishing to answer their phones or go on dates? Or is it the day that empowered women take the bull by the horns, getting down on bended knee in order to ask that burning question? Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

PICS: Star Wars blitz continues at Walt Disney World

Photo credit - iStock 

So why do we have a Leap Year?

The earth takes exactly 365 and ¼ days to orbit the sun giving us our year. To make up the difference we add an extra day on the 29th of February (our shortest month) to make up the time.

Leap Day was first introduced on the Julian calendar more than two millennia ago to account for the extra time in the calendar that couldn’t be fitted into 365 days. Today we all use the Gregorian calendar.

How did the tradition of women proposing come about?

Legend has it that Brigid of Kildare, a fifth-century Irish nun, asked Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, to grant permission for women to propose marriage after hearing complaints from single women whose suitors were too shy to propose. Initially, he granted women permission to propose only once every seven years, but at Brigid's insistence, he acquiesced and allowed proposals every leap day.  

This tradition is now known as ‘Ladies Privilege’.

READ: Head to the spa, just for the hell of it…

What happens if the man says no?

Apart from coming across as rather rude if a man refuses a marriage proposal on this auspicious day he must pay a penalty. This could take the form of buying the luckless lady a dress or giving her money.

In the olden days a man who turned down a lady was required to buy her 12 pairs of gloves to hide her lack of engagement ring. Seems fair?

What are the chances of being born on Leap Day?

If you’re a Leapling you’re in a very select group. Statisticians say that you had a 0.274% chance of ever being born on 29 February and that worldwide there are less than 5 million people born every year who share this birthday. 

READ: Need some inspiration? This incredible video will make you #LoveSA

Photo credit - iStock 

When do babies born on the 29th celebrate their birthdays?
Leaplings have a choice as to when they break out the cake and don the crazy party hats.

One school of thought is to celebrate on the 28th as they were born in February, while another group likes to keep their birthday celebrations to the 1st of March.

The reason behind this being that they would have been born in March had it not been a leap year.

Interestingly all those who are born on the 29th are invited to join the ‘Honor Society of the Leap Year Babies’. This is a fairly modern day tradition that started up in 1997 and has over 10 000 leaplings signed up worldwide.

READ: Easter Budget self-catering breakaways to bring the family closer together

Photo credit - iStock 

Is it bad luck to be born on the 29th?

Well it used to be really unlucky if you were in Scotland but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. But don’t be a wedding planner in Greece as you won’t get any takers for the 29th!

Our Hellenic friends consider it unlucky for couples to marry in a leap year and definitely not on Leap Day. 

READ: Find your lifetime travel partner at the dog hotel + 5 travel things dogs love too!

Famous Leaplings?
Ja Rule, the four time Grammy Award winning rapper and the motivational speaker Tony Robbins are both famous leaplings.

But then again so are two of the most notorious modern day serial killers – Richard Ramirez, who is currently on death row, and Aileen Wournos, a very rare female serial killer who was executed in 2002, both share birthdays on Leap Day.

Photo credit - iStock 

Some really interesting facts about Leap Day?

Hugh Hefner of the Playboy Bunny fame opened his first club on Leap Day in 1960 and Leap Day is also known as Rare Diseases Day.

Last but not least – a leaping frog is a universal symbol for Leap Day. 

Share your travel experiences or photo's with us via email at You can also join us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.